01 / 12 / 2014 9am
By Tracy Lees
As we start week three of the flu campaign, I have just returned from our main hospital reception where we managed to immunise over 50 staff at our Monday morning drop-in clinic. It was great to see our medical director passing through with his own flu equipment and flu vaccinations. As one of our flu vaccinators he has already immunised over 50 members of staff alongside our deputy chief nurse, so they have both have earned an extra half day annual leave. This amazing incentive was kindly provided by our chief executive, Toby Lewis, whose support for the campaign along with other senior managers has helped us to significantly improve our uptake figures.
We have great incentives this year, which include a draw to win an android tablet if immunised within the first three weeks alongside other prizes throughout the campaign and a £1 voucher off the trust's catering outlets. We also have our own flu fighter Fred tweeting staff pledges @FluFighterSWBH and have our own ambulance and driver to take us out to our community locations so we can have drop-in clinics in the back of the ambulance.
To date, we have immunised over 1400 staff in total. This is more than we had at the same stage last year so I hope it continues. We have had an amazing response to our appeal for flu vaccinators this year with 130 registered, including doctors, midwives and nurses. They have so far vaccinated over 700 staff so are well on the way to beating what was achieved in total through peer vaccination last season.
Unfortunately, we are still hearing common myths about the flu from staff, such as ‘it gives you the flu’. We continue to challenge this misconception on a regular basis and are signposting staff to YouTube to watch our film ‘Flip of a Coin SWBH’. When I wrote the script for the film, I took all the excuses we hear every year and addressed them as part of the narrative. One of my vaccinators informed me today that outside of work he has two friends with medical conditions who were refusing to have their flu jab. He asked them to watch the film. Immediately after they arranged to get vaccinated by their GP and sent him a photo as proof. It was wonderful to hear that the film has achieved what it intended to do and influence people to get immunised. I urge everyone to use it, if it helps educate people about the virus and dispel myths about the vaccine.
To me having the flu jab is a no brainer. Years ago when I had the actual flu virus, every fibre of my body ached, I felt too hot one moment and too cold the next and I was hallucinating. Just making a drink or going to the toilet took all the energy my body possessed and even after the fever subsided I was absolutely exhausted. My life was put on hold for two weeks and I struggled to get back to normal due to post viral fatigue. Why would anyone risk having this illness when you can have a vaccine to prevent it? The vaccine can not only protect yourself, but vulnerable patients and family members. The thought of spreading a potentially fatal illness to my loved ones is something I will do everything in my power to prevent.
So I urge all of those eligible for vaccination to please take the flu virus seriously and get the flu jab before the flu virus gets you!
Tracy Lees is the occupational health & wellbeing nurse manager at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.